A decade ago this week saw the release of Zero 7‘s second album When it Falls, following three years after their exceptional debut Simple Things.
I must confess, it took me an embarrassingly long time to “get” Zero 7 – it wasn’t until several years after Simple Things that I started to get the hang of what they were trying to do, and particularly the fact that they were really just a less bonkers and French, and more loungey version of Air. But having understood this, Simple Things is an easy album to enjoy. When it Falls is altogether less straightforward.
The difficult second album kicks off with the appropriately warm vinyl crackle of Warm Sound, with a lovely vocal turning up a minute or so in. Certainly it would be difficult to dislike this, or the second track – also the first single – the lovely Home. Both tracks are every bit as strong as anything on the first album, blending gentle vocals and electronics with a bit of inventiveness and creativity every now and then.
The rest of the album is rather less exciting. Follow-up single Somersault is pleasant, with an extremely good vocal covering up a rather dull track on the whole. Over Our Heads is duller still, and this trend continues for much of the rest of the album.
There’s a brief moment of interest with the instrumental centrepiece, the title track When it Falls, but the latter parts of the album are sadly very dull indeed. Of the later tracks – The Space Between, Look Up, In Time, and Speed Dial No. 2 – many have their moments, but none is really up to the standard of the debut album.
From such an auspicious beginning with Warm Sound and Home, it’s easy to be disappointed by When it Falls. If the “it” of the title was meant to refer to “quality,” it would be easy to agree with the sentiment.
Closing track Morning Song bucks the trend of the tail end of the album, and is one of the better tracks overall, but by this stage the die has long since been cast. When it Falls really isn’t a very convincing follow-up.
Subsequent albums The Garden (2006) and Yeah Ghost (2009) remained patchy – both had some exceptional moments and a lot of very dull ones. Seemingly nothing would ever be quite as straightforward for Zero 7 as they had been when they started out.
You can find When it Falls at all major retailers, such as this one.